Jay Leno Breaks Down as He Says Final Farewell to the 'Tonight Show' (Again)
He said he knew it was time to go, but saying goodbye was still an emotional affair for Jay Leno, who signed off as the "Tonight Show" host for a second time Thursday night.
Choking up as he thanked the audience for being "incredibly loyal," Leno said his "Tonight Show" years were "the greatest 22 years of my life" and proclaimed himself "the luckiest guy in the world."
"The first year of the show, I lost my mom. The second year, I lost my dad,” he continued. “Then my brother died … and the folks here became my family."
Leno called out his staff and crew, employees he made a point to protect when he agreed to end his run as host early, in time for Jimmy Fallon to takeover and capitalize on NBC's Olympics broadcasts. Leno had agreed to jump ship in February, as long as his staff would be paid through next fall.
"I'm proud to say this is a union show," he said, adding how proud he was when one of his staff showed off a new car or told him about their new house.
He added he's "really excited for Jimmy Fallon," and he's proud to have been a part of such a great institution, then, shedding tears, he quoted Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" sign-off from 1992: "I bid you all a very heartfelt good night."
Click on the photo below to see more pics from Leno's final "Tonight Show":
Leno's farewell was followed by a performance from Garth Brooks, who sang "Friends in Low Places," and was preceded by final guest Billy Crystal, and a serenade from an all-star lineup of surprise guests.
The "Shut Your Von Trapp Family Singers" — including Oprah, Jack Black, Carol Burnett, Sheryl Crow, Jim Parsons, Chris Paul, and Kim Kardashian (who was greeted with silence from the audience) — sang "So Long, Farewell" from "The Sound of Music," with lyrics tweaked to fit Leno.
From Black: "If Fallon tanks, you'll be back in a year," a reference to Leno's 2009 "retirement" when Conan O'Brien took over as "Tonight Show" host.
Burnett did her trademark Tarzan yell, and Oprah reminded the audience of her own generosity when she sang, "So long, farewell, you really raised the bar/If you were me, you'd buy them all a car."